One of the tragedies of Zimbabwe is that ministers treat their portfolios as part-time jobs, a trend that compromises the quality of work in government, a Cabinet minister has said.
Education, Sport, Arts and Culture minister David Coltart said it was important for Cabinet members to treat their portfolios as full-time jobs.
“In China, if you are part of Cabinet, you cannot be anything else. It is a tragedy of this country that ministers treat their Cabinet work as part-time. I cannot treat the education of millions of children as a part-time job,” he said.
Coltart said ever since he became a Cabinet minister he has never worked as a lawyer, which is his profession, but has chosen to concentrate on his ministerial portfolio.
“Since I have taken the position of Minister of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture, I have not practiced law. I have never been to court to represent anyone.
“Zimra (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) can confirm I have not drawn any salary from Webb Low firm. I have interest, I am a senior partner, but I have not drawn a salary. Why? It is because to be a minister is a full-time job,” he said.
Coltart is a senior partner at Webb Low and Barry, a law firm based in Bulawayo.
Political analyst Lawton Hikwa said the debate around ministers’ commitment to their jobs depended on the demands of portfolios.
“I think it depends on the demands of the job. Some ministries are more demanding than others. However, ordinarily for efficiency, for one who is in politics and is appointed into a public service office, it is important that they relinquish private duties,” he said.
Economist Eric Bloch said even though ministers could be allowed to be involved in other business, they should still treat their Cabinet work as a priority.
“If ministers are doing their jobs part-time but doing it well, then there is no problem. However, they must all give priority to their ministerial duties,” he said.
On the economic impact of the ministers treating their Cabinet duties as a part-time engagement, the economist said as long as the ministry had no direct impact on the economy, there was not much of a problem.
“It would be very unrealistic to have a law that compels all ministers to leave whatever they are doing and be full-time in Cabinet work because it would discourage a lot of talented people from taking up ministerial appointments.
“If you close down your business what will you do when your term ends? You would have destroyed your livelihood. There is no such law in any Western country I have visited,” he said.
Hikwa said it was possible for technocrats to leave their engagement and join Cabinet yet still return to their professional work after their term ended.